SkyWire eyes home broadband market - TechCentral

SkyWire eyes home broadband market

Mondi Hattingh, left, and Jaco Visagie

Mondi Hattingh, left, and Jaco Visagie

Independent telecommunications provider SkyWire Technologies, which traditionally has focused on the wholesale and business markets, is making its first foray into consumer broadband, announcing recently that it is offering high-speed wireless access to homes and small and medium enterprises in Hermanus, Caledon and Grabouw in the Western Cape.

The company’s directors expect that revenue from the retail consumer and SME markets will make up as much as 50% of its total revenue in the coming years as the company expands aggressively in this area.

SkyWire has offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it provides backhaul services to licensed operators. A Durban office will be opened soon, too.

The business, which was founded about 10 years ago by partners Mondi Hattingh and Jaco Visagie, has since grown into an enterprise with 100 permanent employees. And it’s now starting to attract overtures from bigger industry players. Hattingh says SkyWire has had a number of approaches from potential buyers.

A close relationship with Telkom Wholesale allowed the business to grow in the early days. It secured access to key infrastructure and today has 18 000 high sites around the country that it can utilise to provide last-mile services and backhaul to corporate customers and other operators using microwave links and fibre-optic connections.

It also spent considerable time developing proprietary technology to maintain redundancy on its links. Such technology was not available on the cheaper telecoms equipment it was utilising in those days, explains Visagie.

It realised there was a big market in outlying areas, and now provides solutions to mines and other businesses in remote areas.

SkyWire has since expanded into providing voice services, with interconnection agreements with major operators in place.

It typically uses unlicensed spectrum to provide last-mile services to businesses (and now consumers), but is keen to participate in any future plans by communications regulator Icasa to license access to new spectrum bands.

“Most definitely,” says Visagie when asked if SkyWire will participate in the spectrum licensing process when it happens. “We will be a main player in it.”

Hermanus (and surrounds) is SkyWire’s first foray into the retail consumer market, says Hattingh. It will also target small and medium enterprises in the area, offering products such as voice, cloud services and remote backups.

The idea, says Visagie, is to secure access to fibre in each town the company intends expanding into and then to provide high-speed wireless Internet from a suitable high site using (for now) unlicensed spectrum bands.

“Wherever there is fibre, we can deploy quickly. We can compete head-on with last-mile fibre pricing, no problem,” adds Hattingh.

Indeed, the company says it can even provide services in areas that are set to get fibre to the home, providing wireless broadband as a stopgap measure until the fibre is in.  — © 2015 NewsCentral Media

5 Comments

  1. Cool stuff, but skip the unlicensed wireless and start deploying last mile FTTx. That is where the demand is growing rapidly and what we all want as businesses and consumers.

  2. That figure of 18,000 high sites has piqued my curiosity – it’s a **big** number!

    To put it in perspective, it’s not that far off the total number of 3G base station locations that we have from four mobile operators in the country (same order of magnitude). Remember that we have 93%+ population coverage for 3G (based on latest figures from Vodacom and MTN).

    I note that the WhichVoIP directory entry for SkyWire says “18,000 Wi-Fi high sites”. Maybe this puts another spin on it? However, I don’t believe that all the WISPs together have that many. Ditto for the commercial hotspot providers (Telkom Mobile, AlwaysOn, SkyRove et al).

    I recognise that the wording in this article is “can utilise” so these are possible sites rather than built sites, but I would like to know how this claim of 18,000 high sites can be substantiated?

  3. Glen Warrington on

    You are quite right in that the demand for last mile fiber is indeed what we all want and where an existing fiber node is available within a 5 km rage, we can and will do the feasibility to provide the required service. We are most certainly not limited to any medium.
    Last mile unlicensed microwave is unfortunately, or fortunately for us, the most cost effective solution for the consumer to be serviced with high speed data and carrier grade voice in under serviced areas and at the rate of copper disappearing, the under serviced areas seem to grow much faster than fiber can be laid. It is surprising how many areas within the metros are totally under serviced and in dire need of a solid hi speed data link.

  4. Glen Warrington on

    Our co-location agreement gives us access to, among other, 18 000 Telkom towers. Where there is a need and the economics justify, we deploy.

    Actually it should be more than 18 000 as we have agreements in place with other tower companies as well as some of our own.

    I think we are all underestimating how big Telkom actually was….

  5. Noted. The number still strikes me as too high, even considering Telkom’s WLL deployment. Anyhow, IBIWISI.

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